Today’s Reading: Matthew 13:31-35; Mark 4:26-34; Luke 13:6-9, 18-21
Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them. – Mark 4:33-34
I love a good story. One night in youth group, Charlotte More told the story of how Beth Moore was compelled to brush an old man’s hair in an airport. I was on the edge of my seat listening to every word. I knew I had heard the story before, but I was enjoying hearing it again. There is power in stories. They keep us engaged and help us remember God’s teaching. Jesus’ stories do the same thing. They bring theology into full color and make it easier to understand.
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” – Mark 4:26-29
At the Pregnancy Resource Center in Kankakee, Illinois, a reminder has been placed on the wall of our role in bringing others to salvation. It says:
Success in Witnessing is…
1. Living out my Christian life
2. Sharing the gospel
3. Trusting God with the Results
Success is NOT bringing someone to Christ.
God calls us to plant the seed but what happens after that is beyond our control. We cannot make the decision for another person. We can stay close by to support them and encourage them and answer their questions, but the decision to live for Christ is theirs and only theirs to make.
We have to trust the way God uses His Word in the heart of another person. It is mysterious and beyond what my human effort can produce. I can plant the seed and I can pray for the harvest, but I have to leave the results up to the Lord. In the words of the apostle Paul: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” – Mark 4:30-32
What an encouraging verse! We cannot get discouraged at our small attempts to plant seed, even when we do not see immediate results. Like a farmer, we need to have patience and trust that there is growth below the surface that we cannot see. We need to have faith and believe that God can grow that seed into something large and spectacular – something that will one day help others who come to rest in its shade.
He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” – Luke 13:20-21
The Kingdom of God is permeating and has the power to transform! Jesus started with 12 disciples and look how the gospel has spread across nations and cities and communities and neighborhoods. One by one, the gospel is shared and new life springs up. The change in a new Christian is small compared to the work that God intends to do over time in the life of His children. Transformation and growth will take place and continue in that person’s life, and soon they will be planting seeds in the lives of those around them. This is how the message of Jesus spreads and takes root. This is how the Kingdom of God continues to increase.
Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’
“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6-9
Oh the love of our Jesus, that He would never give up on us.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
If He does not give up on us, we should not give up on the lost. Even when we cannot see the growth that is happening below the surface, we must trust God for the results. We must listen carefully and obey what He prompts us to do and to say, and we must never give up on the seeds. We must see in it the potential of being the largest plant in the garden. For the sake of the birds who will someday nest in its branches, we must give it time, special attention and plenty of prayer.